Peace Energy Cooperative (PEC) is ready to start construction of its Peace River Energy Project later this year. Above, left-right, PEC members Don Pettit, Greg Dueck, and Ernie Freeman are proud to display their plans.

Emily Plihal
Local Journalism
Initiative Reporter

Peace Energy Cooperative (PEC) is ready to commence its solar farm construction later this fall, after recently receiving approval from the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) to proceed with the development.

“Construction of the Peace River Energy Project is scheduled to start in October 2024, and be completed by summer 2025,” says Peace River Energy Project (PREP) manager Colin Smith.

“Commissioning is scheduled to take place in the late summer and fall of 2025 and be commercially operational by November 2025.”

Approval was received March 19, exciting news for the cooperative after a period of uncertainty caused by the Alberta government’s six-month moratorium on large renewable energy projects.

The Peace River Energy Project, a 5 MW grid-connected solar farm, is a community-led initiative spearheaded by PEC.

“We are thrilled to receive the official approval from the Alberta Utilities Commission to move forward with the Peace River Energy Project,” says PEC executive director Don Pettit.

“This milestone is a testament to the dedication and perseverance of our team and the unwavering support of our community members.”

“We encourage Peace Region community members to become members of PEC which will allow them to have the opportunity to purchase investment shares in this cooperatively driven project,” adds Smith.

“Lifetime membership in PEC is $100 and investment shares are $100 each. Once the project is up and running, investment shares will pay an annual dividend based on project performance.”

PREP will allow the community ownership of clean electricity generation, and the farm will create jobs for skilled trades and youth looking to work in renewable energies.

“PREP will contribute to economic diversification and generate tax revenue for the M.D. of Peace 135, while reducing carbon emissions and promoting economic growth through job creation and investment opportunities,” explains Smith, adding there will be multiple benefits.

“Not only will the project reduce reliance on fossil fuel generated power, but community ownership also ensures equitable distribution of the economic benefits. The project also plans to invest in regenerative agriculture practices on the project site to ensure that the land, vegetation, and biodiversity are left better than we found it.”

Smith says PEC plans on including battery storage to enhance the project’s capacity to contribute to peak grid usage times further promoting sustainability and community resilience in the Peace Region energy grid.

“Thanks to our expert project partners, regulatory specialists, and interim communication from the AUC during the moratorium, we were able to effectively demonstrate compliance with all of the issues raised by the Minister of Utilities, Nathan Neudorf, and Premier Danielle Smith,” says Smith.

“We demonstrated clearly that this project is located on Class 3 agricultural land, does not affect any pristine views, had already received municipal approval on May 9, 2023, and already had a decommissioning and reclamation plan in place.”

Smith says this will have an impact not only on the Peace region, but also – hopefully – on future projects across the country.

“Our long-term goal with the Peace River Energy Project is to establish a sustainable energy source that benefits the community, supports local economic development, and contributes to Canada’s transition towards a greener future,” says Smith.

“We plan for this project to be a template for future community owned solar projects across Alberta and Western Canada.”

For more information about the Peace River Energy Project and Peace Energy Cooperative, please visit www.peaceenergy.ca/peace-river-energy-project.